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IB warns of aerial threat to Commonwealth Games

By Vicky Nanjappa
Last updated on: September 06, 2010 15:48 IST
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With the Commonwealth Games scheduled to begin in a month, the Intelligence Bureau has been working overtime to ensure the complete security of the event.'s Vicky Nanjappa looks at some of the possible terror threats to India's latest sporting extravaganza.

With the Commonwealth Games fast approaching, Indian agencies have expressed concerns over an aerial attack by terrorists on the Games. Home Secretary G K Pillai too had expressed a similar concern while stating that Pakistani terror groups have purchased modern paragliders from China and are capable of launching a cross border attack with such state-of-the-art equipment.

A source in the Intelligence Bureau told that they cannot give proof of such a purchase, but looking at the manner in which the terrorists have been augmenting their equipment, an aerial attack seems likely.

Indian intelligence agencies say that a 9/11 style hijack is ruled out with the increased security on airlines. Even though terror groups prefer sea-borne attacks since coastal security is still not up to the mark, they may launch an aerial attack since this possess the element of surprise. The IB is trying to verify and cross check the deals that were made with China regarding the purchase of such paragliders.

However the IB is paying special attention to a deal that was being worked out by these militant groups to purchase of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Since the past year terror groups have been trying to lay their hands on UAVs. Both the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Al Qaeda have been making efforts to procure UAVs. The funds to purchase such an aircraft are not a problem, but these groups have been trying to purchase at least 50 such aircraft to launch multi-pronged terror strikes.

UAVs ensure that the terror groups can do away with the use of people for future attacks since there is always the danger of these fidayeens being captured alive and spilling out details of the attack as seen in Kasab's case.

An attack with the help of a UAV has many advantages for terror groups. Firstly there is an element of surprise involved which could catch security agencies off guard. Although the air force says that they are prepared for any such eventuality, terror groups continue to have the upper hand since intelligence always fails when newer types of attacks are launched.

During any attack, maximum damage is always inflicted when terrorists drive an explosives laden vehicle into a group of people. A UAV could produce the same results at a much lower risk of detection.

Another advantage is that an aerial attack would cover a larger area. An attack with a para glider would mean that Fidayeens would have to land and then attack the target. However with a UAV the plane laden with explosives could crash at the desired site and wreak havoc. Another important factor is that such an attack would work out cheaper for terror groups when compared to using actual people for an attack.

Finally the most important goal achieved by such a strike is the fear psychosis generated in the local population. Such an attack is termed as spectacular and several UAVs crashing at a particular site could wreck havoc in the minds of the people.

Although the home ministry has claimed now that the use of para gliders is not ruled out there are many problems that are associated with such an attack. Experts have pointed out that it is very difficult to navigate the glider with over 70 kilos of weight. The ten terrorists, who came into Mumbai were carrying bags weighing 30 kilos each. For any fidayeen strike to be carried out effectively, this is the weight of equipment required. This would indicate that the person who is coming into carry the attack will need to weigh just 40 kilos in order to ensure that he navigates the glider with all the equipment. This indicates that para gliders cannot be used to heavy attacks and would be utilised for smaller operations.

The IB says that although it is important to know in advance the manner in which they would attack, the need of the hour is to collect specific intelligence on groups which are trying to target the Games. There have been several rounds of discussions with intel agencies of UK and other nations on these aspects and every nation has said that the CWG will be the desired target. Existing intelligence suggests that the attack which is being planned would be a long drawn one and the last option would be a bomb blast.

IIndia is aiming to showcase itself to the world with the help of these Games and hence terror groups would try and battle forces in New Delhi for as long as possible.

Security meetings in the past month have focused more on tackling a hostage crisis which is the most likely possibility. There is no dedicated or separate route for transporting the athletes and they would have to use the main road which makes them vulnerable to attack.

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